Medical 3D printing is making quick leaps and bounds and could soon be such a key integrated part of the medical world that we will wonder how we ever lived without it.
Doctors are now able to print 3D “living” body parts – which will be a significant advancement for regenerative medicine. A positive breakthrough has already been made, with the successful implantation of bone, muscle and cartilage into animals.
Previously, the field had hit a wall: keeping the cells alive was difficult, as they became starved of oxygen and nutrients. This problem led to a very promising solution by the team at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre.
It is exactly what it sounds like. The Wake Forest team developed the idea of printing the tissue with channels interwoven throughout to allow key ntrients to pass through it.
How can a “living” body part be printed with these channels? Through the Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System (ITOP), which utilizes a bio-degradable plastic to give the tissue its structure, as well as a water-based gel that contains the cells and encourages growth.
These channels allow blood vessels and nerves to grow into the printed tissue. Before the ITOP 3D printer, the largest structure to be kept alive without blood cells was 0.007 inches thick. With the ITOP size isn’t an issue, as the microscopic pores are interwoven into the printed structure allowing the i
plant to be kept alive indefinitely.
Are 3D Organ Transplants Next?
This development gives 3D organ printing a promising outlook. Within the next few years we could be expecting success stories on artificial heart, liver, kidney, and other major organ transplants, giving many on the transplant list hope. Pennside will continue to follow the development of 3D printing in the healthcare industry.
If you aren’t familiar with how 3D printing is impacting the pharma and biotech industry check out Pennside’s earlier blog postings to learn more.
The above post is a condensed and edited summary of NBC News: Wake Forest University Scientists Print Living Body Parts, BBC News: Doctors 3D-print ‘living’ body parts and Popular Mechanics: Incredible 3D Printer Can Make Bone, Cartilage, and Muscle